A video game retrospect from an old guy gamerMikey 21 comments
It only recently occurred to me that I'm probably considered to be an 'old guy' gamer. I turn 40 in a few months, and if you had asked me when I was around 6 or so if I thought I'd still be playing video games at 40, I would have said "hell yes dude!". If you'd asked me again when I was able to give a more mature thought-out response, say in my twenties, I would have probably said "I seriously doubt it".
Even to me it sounds almost juvenile, a man at my age, at this stage in his life, still occasionally passes time and gets a kick out of playing video games. Not any old type of video game mind you - having worked (a long time ago) in a video arcade for nearly 8 years as a technician where part of my job was frequent 'testing' of games, I have since developed an absolute disdain for dumbed down arcade style gaming, which means consoles are strictly off my list (Sticky aim? Oh please...). However I made an exception for the first Gran Tourismo which meant I did own a first generation Playstation.
As I look back at my gaming life I'm reminded of some of the antics that may have moulded me into the gamer I am today. Some might suggest said antics were early signs of an addiction, but truth be told I've never really been addicted to video games. But I'll let you be the judge...
The Atari 2600 era
I once ripped apart a pair of controllers and re-soldered all the wires with the quality stuff I got from the electronics store. I also regularly cleaned all the nasty plastic debris that seemed to collect under the contacts at the most inopportune of times. The Atari 2600 is the first game console I can remember owning, and at the time was pretty snazzy, until the ET game came along and destroyed my hopes along with the entire game industry in 1983.
You think graphics from just a few years ago were lame? Check this out - state of the art at the time.
The Commodore 64 era
Undoubtedly the biggest game collection I ever had was on the C64, and it was also the first time I started to dabble in programming outside of BASIC, with a language called ADVANCED (very creative naming huh?). With the Super Expander Cartridge my C64 was expended to a whopping 128k (about the same size as a collection of Windows Desktop icons these days) that also included a complex programming language that allowed me to create my first vector graphics driven adventure game.
My fondest memory of the C64 was playing Elite, a game so vast and addictive that I would fake sickness to get a day or two off school just to play it. I also fell in love with vectors, and a couple of decades later I would go on to use 'Wolf MKII' as my online alias.
For those too young to remember, the C64 shipped with a tape drive because games were stored on tape. Yes you read that right - old fashioned tape or cassette if you prefer. My kids have never seen a tape - in fact they've never even seen a video tape and they never will in this house. Depending on the game, some could take up to 45 minutes to load. This meant pressing the SHIFT & RUN-STOP keys, pressing play on the tape, and hoping like hell it didn't crash when it got to the end, which was a frequent occurrence.
If you could afford the extra clams then a floppy drive could be obtained, which had enough capacity to store a game or 3, and would load in about 1/10th the time a tape would take.
Of course back in those days there was no such thing as securerom or any other type of copy protection, so piracy ran rampant. Copying a game on tape only required a double tape deck recorder and floppy copies required 2 floppy drives.
The Amiga era
It took a long time, but the C64 was superceded by another Commodore branded machine - the Amiga, which was launched in 1000 and 1500 models. The Amiga was a graphics powerhouse compared to it's older sibling, and as the name suggests came with either 1mb or 1.5mb of RAM. Look out! This seemingly feeble amount of memory was expandable with a Viper card, bringing you up to 16mb and simultaneously opening up a new world of things to do, like cinema quality animation for example. Not many people know this but Lighwave on the Amiga was responsible for bringing many high quality CGI effects to the cinema.
The Amiga did have some quality games and launched many gaming franchises (Prince of Persia to name just one) and the careers of some of today's industry giants. Sierra, who you know better these days as Valve, or does the name Electronic Arts sound familiar?
It also introduced for the first time among other things, stereo sound and flat-shaded polygon based gaming graphics (which are still the basic foundation of today's gaming technology) and ray tracing.
But for me, I was instantly sold on the Amiga the day I saw one small demo - the juggler. The video below shows the reason I spent one summer sweating on a factory floor to save enough money to buy an Amiga, which at the time retailed for $AU1,500.
The short lived console era - Sony PS1
One day after work I arrived home and listened to my answering machine message: it was the game store informing me that my pre-order had arrived. Looking at the clock and I knew they closed in 15 minutes - but so keen was I on Gran Tourismo that I immediately jumped back in my car and drove down the emergency lane on the freeway so I could get to the store before it closed. I made it with 3 minutes to spare and that night decided I wasn't feeling well enough to go to work for the next couple of days.
Anyone who played Gran Tourismo for the first time on the PlayStation 1 will remember the weeks of absolute joy it provided. I have recently considered with on the horizon that a PS3 might be in order. Don't hold me to that though.
The PS1 was a great console, but my aforementioned disdain for everything arcade related limited the number of games that took my fancy.
With my Amiga now officially collecting dust and the PS1 quickly becoming tiresome, I looked to the PC for hope. One day at a friends house I witnessed hope, and it's name was 'Unreal'.
The PC era - current
To say my jaw hit the floor when I first saw Unreal would be a massive understatement. Within days I had purchased my first PC especially for Unreal, with specs that would make my gaming colleagues jealous. A first generation Pentium running at 233mhz, 128mb of RAM, a 30gb hard disc, and a 4mb Voodoo 1 video card. Back in those days your 3D card was actually separate to your 2D card. I was seriously the envy of man. Funny how today my mobile phone has far greater specs.
It was the first time I had seen texture based polygons and an environment that really allowed you to get immersed. Looking back at it today it's hard to believe.
The PC also introduced me to a world of new 3D games. Unreal as mentioned, Quake, Blood to name a few, and online multi player gaming. The First Person shooter quickly became and is still today my favourite gaming genre.
Today I'm still on the PC but don't play as much as I used too, and play online even less. I'm more interested in fuelling my creative interests, such as programming and design. That said, my faith in online gaming has been restored with Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, although it's far from perfect and clearly shows its console roots, it's still a heck of a lot of fun.
I used to multiplay online religiously, and I hold the 'distinction' of having once played 19 consecutive online hours of Quake 2 on 56k, dieting on nothing more than Coke and Spicy Mexican dip with crackers. My body sure paid heavily for that one taking me a few days of extended sleep-ins to fully recover, and a passing thought that I might have an addiction. Nah...
The big question
With all this history, the question has to be asked - Will I still be gaming when I'm 60? I seriously doubt it. Damn, I can't believe I said that again. Are there any 50 year old gamers out there? Do I really want to be that guy? Honestly, I'd be very surprised - or maybe not!